An outsider casting a glance at the list of contributors to the HuffPost's divorce vertical could be forgiven for thinking that divorce is a women-only phenomenon. When a man does appear, he invariably deals either with the financial or the legal aspect of divorce, very rarely indulging in discussion of emotional issues and almost never of his own emotional experience.
Considering that men comprise fully half of the individuals who get divorced, isn't it reasonable to expect they would at least be a significant presence in the divorce discourse? As party to the breakups, surely men should be participating in discussions like their women counterparts, expressing thoughts and feelings. Yet as things stand, men are grossly underrepresented in heartfelt divorce talk in the media, which is dominated by women.
By way of explanation, justification or maybe apology for this bizarre state of affairs, reference is made to men's supposed reticence to engage with their feelings, much less to talk about them openly. Expressing feelings is thought to be a sign of weakness, even unmanly, so men shy away from it. By contrast, women are generally thought to be more able and willing to get in touch with their emotions and more likely to express them in public.
The relatively small number of men visible in divorce territory seems to confirm John Gray's division of society into stereotypes from Venus and Mars. This is disturbing because the very nature of divorce -- two people terminating their marital relationship -- demands something approaching equal reflection and consideration by the parties. Moreover, the fact that men are playing a marginal role in the divorce discourse implies that many of them are not processing their divorce experience, one of life's major transitions, and not learning its lessons. This does not bode well for their mental health and, more particularly, jeopardizes their prospects of establishing satisfactory relationships. After all, if we do not learn from our experience, we are doomed to repeat it.
With this in mind, I would like to put out a call to all men contemplating divorce, in the throes of divorce and those already divorced: Let us know what you are going through.
Certainly men are feeling the pain, sadness and loss that accompany divorce but are bottling up these feelings instead of releasing them. As a man who has publicly revealed his deepest feelings and vulnerabilities (as well as elation), I can vouch for the veracity of the axiom, "A pain shared is a pain halved."
On the plus side, there must be plenty of stories waiting to be told by men who feel that their divorce has opened the way to better things, perhaps even transformed their lives. No doubt there are tales of triumph and joy that can provide both motivation and inspiration to those still stuck in the rough.
The divorce community -- both those who have gone through a divorce and professionals alike -- would value more men's stories and opinions on divorce-related issues like betrayal, recovery, open marriage, children and dating. It's not as if the men are busy chopping logs or pondering the origins of the universe. By abstaining from the debate, they are simply shirking their responsibility, primarily to themselves, but also to their families and to society. There is a lot they can teach us.
We all stand to benefit if more men are drawn into the divorce discourse, through persuasion or coaching, and contribute to our understanding of the big D. At the moment, their bit of the puzzle is missing, leaving a gap that is crying out to be filled.
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